If evening planetary gazing is your thing, March is going to be a big disappointment to you. There are no naked eye planets visible in the evening sky this month. Uranus will be in the western sky and will be visible with binoculars or a small telescope about an hour after sunset. If the Crescent Moon is visible on Sunday March 6, look for Uranus directly above the Moon or below the Moon on March 7. Uranus will sink closer to the horizon each evening.
It should be possible to see the Zodiacal Light in the western sky once the Moon leaves the evening sky during the second half of March. The Zodiacal Light appears as a faint glow along the ecliptic. It is caused by sunlight being reflected toward Earth by interplanetary dust. The ecliptic is the apparent path the Sun traces across the constellations as the Earth orbits the Sun. If you can locate the twelve constellations of the Zodiac, then you will know where to look for the Zodiacal Light in the west.
There may be a dearth of evening planets in March, but early risers will have plenty of viewing opportunities in the SE sky. Venus will still be the star of the show as it reaches its greatest elongation (47 degrees west from the Sun) on March 20. The phase of Venus we see will grow from 32 percent to 55 percent during the Month and shine with a magnitude of -4.4 as it reaches its highest point in the sky for 2022. Early in March, faint Mars will be located just below Venus 40 minutes before sunrise. By the end of the month, the Red Planet will be to the right of Venus. Saturn begins the month low in the ESE very close to Mercury. While Mercury will soon drop out of sight, Saturn will continue to rise until it is directly below Venus on March 27. During the last four days of the month (Mar 29 – 31), Saturn will slowly climb until it forms a line with Venus on its left and Mars on its right (again, viewed 40 minutes before sunrise). Wednesday March 16 will find Mars only 3.9 degrees to the lower right of Venus (the width of your little finger tip held at arm’s length equals about one degree). On March 29, the distance between Venus and Saturn will only be 2.1 degrees and it, too, will now be positioned to the lower right of Venus.
Jupiter will finally reappear late in March, but it will not be easy to view until next month. Your observing challenge is to see what day you can finally see this Gas Giant in April. It just may be possible to see it in the ESE just left of the Old Crescent Moon in the twilight ten minutes before sunrise on Wednesday March 30. If you see Jupiter on March 30 or 31, you will need to add a gold star to your observation log to mark your elevation to the rank of SPF (‘superior planet finder’).
The New Moon takes place on Wed March 2. The new Lunar Cycle will see the First Quarter Moon on Mar 10, the Full Moon on Mar 18, and the Last Quarter Moon on Mar 25. The next New Moon will be interesting because it will take place on March 31 for the west coast (11:24 p.m. PDT) and April 1 for the rest of the country (2:24 a.m. EDT, 1:24 a.m. CDT and 12:24 a.m. MDT). The Moon will be at apogee (251,200 miles from Earth) at 6 p.m. EST on March 10 and at perigee (229,758 miles) at 8 p.m. EDT on March 23.
Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 a.m. local time on March 13. The Vernal or Spring Equinox for the northern hemisphere begins at 11:33 a.m. EDT on March 20. Equinox means ‘equal night’ and on this date, all points on the globe receive 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness as the Earth’s axis of rotation is not pointing toward or away from the Sun. It also means we will have reclaimed one half of the daylight hours we miss at the time of the Winter Solstice in December. By the date of the Summer Solstice in June, the axis will be tilted fully toward the Sun as we begin summer in the northern hemisphere. The Northern Pole of the Earth will experience 24 hours of daylight during the solstice while the Great Lakes Region will see approximately 17 hours of daylight and 7 hours of darkness.
Compiled by Ken Raisanen of WOAS-FM – information provided by Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar, Michigan State University. More information and subscription information can be found on their website at http://abramsplanetarium.org/skycalendar/ or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AbramsSkyNotes. Yearly subscriptions cost $12 and can be started anytime.
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